Good Friday morning and we’re back!
Fauda is also back. Season 3 is now on Netflix. Stay tuned for a Jewish Insider / Fauda webcast on Monday April 20th at 12:30 PM EDT with co-creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, moderated by Dan Senor. This will be their first live conversation taking you behind the origins of Season 3. Participant space will be limited, look out for the registration link on Sunday.
While we were away for Passover… New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New Yorkers must wear face masks in public beginning today, and extended stay-at-home orders through May 15.
The Trump administrationannounced it would renew humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in light of the coronavirus crisis, pledging $5 million to hospitals in the West Bank — a fraction of what the U.S. once provided.
Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a bipartisan call for an “immediate boost to American-Israel cooperation for treating and curing COVID-19.”
In Israel, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were unable to agree on terms for a unity coalition government, despite a 48-hour extension to Gantz’s mandate. The mandate to form the next government has now transferred to the Knesset, which has 21 days to rally around a candidate.
Thousands of viewerstuned in over the last two weeks to webinars spanning a variety of topics from Passover to the coronavirus. Who’s been watching what? Check out JI’s latest Zoom rankings.
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race to watch
Odd bedfellows converge in San Diego congressional race
In a Southern California congressional race, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez has the backing of a diverse group of supporters, including Justice Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and donors including Stacy Schusterman and two former AIPAC presidents, Amy Friedkin and Mort Fridman.
On the surface, the pro-Israel community’s decision to rally around the more progressive candidate seems surprising given that Sara Jacobs — Gómez’s opponent to replace outgoing Rep. Susan Davis and granddaughter of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs — is Jewish and has family in Israel. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel takes a look at the intriguing race in California’s 53rd district.
Part of the explanation: “The local pro-Israel community is very high on Gómez,” said Mark Mellman, the president of Democratic Majority for Israel who also heads up the Mellman Group, a polling and consulting firm that counts Gómez as a client. “Georgette Gómez,” he added, “will be a stronger and more effective advocate of the U.S.-Israel relationship than her opponent.” Jeff Mendelsohn, the founding executive director of Pro-Israel America, said: “We should not be surprised that someone who is progressive is pro-Israel. I think we should be surprised when someone is progressive and is not pro-Israel.”
More of the explanation: As much as they seem to appreciate Gómez’s views, there are reasons to believe that her national supporters are, in fact, more motivated over concerns with her opponent’s approach to the Middle East. Jacobs calls for conditions on U.S. aid to Israel, saying the U.S. should speak out against settlement construction, and argues that the U.S. should rejoin the Iran deal.
Forging bonds: Gómez said she hadn’t given much thought to these issues until April 2019, when a gunman opened fire during Passover services at the Chabad of Poway synagogue just outside San Diego. Since the shooting, Gómez has sought to educate herself, meeting with community members in an effort to deepen her understanding of Jewish issues and challenge her own assumptions.
As for Justice Dems: Gómez told JI that she had been transparent about her pro-Israel views with Justice Democrats. “I was really, really clear,” she said. “I didn’t waffle or any of that, but they chose to support me.” After the Justice Democrats endorsement, Gómez said some of her pro-Israel supporters expressed concerns over the group’s stances, so to assuage those concerns she published an essay in the San Diego Jewish World in which she publicly expressed, among other things, her support for the Jewish state.
Eye on November: Jacobs came out on top in the March 3 jungle primary — besting Gómez by a margin of nearly 10 percentage points — but Gómez still has a solid chance of winning the November election, according to Brian Adams, a political scientist at San Diego State University. Gómez also has institutional support, having been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, and her progressive views are in line with voters in the district, which went for Sanders by more than 10 points over Joe Biden in the presidential primary.
How one congresswoman stays connected with her supporters amid the pandemic
“There’s jokes about extroverted politicians and shelter-in-place,” quipped Haley Stevens, the 36-year-old Michigan congresswoman, at the beginning of a recent Zoom call with some of her Jewish supporters in and around Detroit. “It’s all my favorite people!”
Checking in: Just weeks after making headlines for her impassioned House floor speech — while wearing pink latex gloves — exhorting her colleagues to take the coronavirus seriously, the freshman Democrat beamed into the meeting from her home in Rochester Hills. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel sat in on the call on the seventh night of Passover, where Stevens took questions and provided an update on the state’s effort to curb the pandemic.
Flattening the curve: “I don’t take real liberal positions on things,” Stevens averred on Tuesday afternoon, “but my golly, is now the time and the awakening and the moment to stand up for the people and the hard-working people of this country — and that is not a platitude.” The congresswoman defended Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has sparred with President Donald Trump over his sluggish response to the pandemic. Stevens believes the governor’s actions have been working. “Whitmer’s been taking flak from the president and from other people,” she said. “But we have a flattening curve as a result of her actions.”
Remote holiday: Reflecting on her first term in Congress, Stevens recounted a tumultuous year that kicked off with a government shutdown and culminated in a historic global pandemic. “Passover was sort of the first big holiday that we’ve had as a society since this hit,” Stevens said, taking stock of the past couple of months. It was good to commune with her supporters, she said, even if they could not be together. “I miss you all so much.”
Bonus: Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod takes a look at the series of steps Zoom is taking to tighten its security amid a wave of “Zoombombing” — the phenomenon where online harassers join videoconferences and spread hate-filled messages and images. Zoom’s chief product officer Oded Gal said the company halted all product development activities for 90 days to focus exclusively on security and privacy. Read more here.
Alan Zweibel: The man behind the punchline
You might not know it, but Alan Zweibel has made you laugh. The legendary comedy writer has penned punchlines for the most famous names in the business, including Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Jon Lovitz and many more. He was one of the original writers on “Saturday Night Live,” and has worked on dozens of films and TV series since. Zweibel spoke toJewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about his new memoir, Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier.
Name dropping:Laugh Lines is chock-full of hilarious anecdotes and tales from both his work and his personal relationships with some of the biggest names in showbiz. Within the first five pages, Zweibel mentions Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg, both Eli and Peyton Manning, Prince, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Martin Scorsese, Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld and the Reverend Al Sharpton. And that’s long before he describes the evening he once spent with Crystal (who wrote a foreword to the book), Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Larry David and Jon Lovitz.
Funny people: What does he think makes Jews such a dominant force in comedy? “That question always gets asked but that question is never answered definitively,” Zweibel said. “I just think it’s a cultural thing. I think that we Jews — it was a survival mechanism to have a sense of humor.” The comedian posited that humor “is a huge mechanism and huge attribute for survival. I think that that’s how we were able to withstand everything.”
Quaran-tivity: Today — in self-quarantine with his wife — Zweibel said he still “wakes up at 5:30 everyday to do my writing — and occasionally venture outside wearing a mask and gloves and wait on line to get into Whole Foods.” They held a Passover Seder with his children and grandchildren via Zoom, and “the good news is we didn’t have to prepare for 30 people!” He’s also working on a Broadway show about Gilda Radner, a potential TV project with Rob Reiner, and writing a play with Martin Short. “This is a time to create, and this is a time to develop.”
Rabbi Sharon Brous talks Passover, coronavirus and the plagues
In an interview with journalist Alex Wagner on the “Six Feet Apart” podcast, Rabbi Sharon Brous, senior rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles, explained how the American Jewish community is adapting to a ban on religious gatherings in the middle of a spiritual crisis.
Multitude of challenges: When Brous first learned that quarantines were likely, she began preparing for a number of challenges. “The challenge that we’ll be facing is the spiritual challenge of how do you reckon with a world in which so much devastation and destruction is possible and ultimately really trying to deal with the pain of isolation and anticipatory grief… and then actual grief,” she said.
Coronavirus and the plagues: Brous compared the coronavirus and social distancing to the ninth plague, darkness, noting that it prevented people from seeing those around them. “When you can’t see your neighbor, you also feel like you can’t be seen, and you begin to feel impotent and invisible, like you’ve been erased, and that just strips the human spirit, and it feels like that’s what’s happening,” she said. “It’s the right thing for us to be kept away from our loved ones, but it feels inhuman.”
Big changes: Brous predicted that this time of social distancing will lead to a groundswell of support for social change once restrictions are lifted, including a re-evaluation of how society treats and views essential workers and broader support for paid sick leave. “When the Israelites left Egypt, they had to build a new society that was counter to the society in which the oppression took place. And I think we’re going to have not only an opportunity, but an imperative to do the same thing,” she said. “What will we do with the lessons that we’ve learned through this plague of darkness?… How will we take what we’ve learned and build something beautiful from all this?”
👩👨Saving Lives: Cheryl Saban, wife of mogul Haim Saban and president of the Saban Family Foundation, which funds three Saban Community Clinics in Los Angeles, spoke withThe Hollywood Reporter about the opening of a fourth clinic and the launch of its emergency relief fund to combat coronavirus — and described the couple’s daily quarantine activities. [HollywoodReporter]
✍️ Unlikely Bedfellows:The New York Times’s David Halbfinger has penned a “dispatch from Bnei Brak,” where the coronavirus-beleaguered city has largely welcomed IDF assistance in fighting the virus. [NYTimes]
🧔 New Model: Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston examines how Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community could potentially serve as a model for a “post-work world,” living off a basic minimum income and prioritizing family and religious study ahead of a career. [Bloomberg]
📓 Their Words: A team of volunteers is working to digitally transcribe 2,000 diaries written in Amsterdam during World War II, making available never-before published thoughts from “powerful but mute witnesses to the horrors of war.” [NYTimes]
👨⚕️Local Heroes:The Financial Times’s Mehul Srivastava spotlights the Israeli-Arab doctors on the frontlines of fighting coronavirus. “As an Arab, other jobs are closed off to us, so we became doctors,” said Dr. Jameel Mohsen, head of infectious diseases at the Hillel Yeffe Medical Center. [FinancialTimes]
Around the Web
👎 Not at Home: Senior White House advisor Ivanka Trump came under fire for traveling to New Jersey from Washington to celebrate Passover last week, violating federal guidelines for self-quarantining.
💵 Empty Pockets: The $350 billion allocated to fund loans through the Small Business Administration has already run out. Democrats and Republicans are squabbling over the next steps forward for the fund.
😃 Early Release: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen will be released early from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will serve the remainder of his sentence — until November 2021 ― from home confinement.
🏢 Under Arrest: A Massachusetts man with white supremacist ties was arrested by the FBI and charged with the attempted arson of Jewish assisted living facility in the state. Federal prosecutors are unhappy that he was released to house arrest on Wednesday.
🙅♂️ No Comparison: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis — the state’s first Jewish governor — tearfully rejected a Republican official’s comparison of stay-at-home orders to a “Gestapo-like mentality.” In Michigan, some protestors held signs comparing Governor Gretchen Whitmer to Hitler, complete with swastikas.
💲Open Checkbook:Expedia and IAC Chairman Barry Diller suggested that the federal government should bail out all companies hit hard by the coronavirus, including those in the travel industry, and “worry about paying the bills later.”
💻 Taking Notes: Ronald Lauder, head of the Anti-Semitism Accountability Project, has launched a new online portal to track coronavirus-fueled hate crimes.
👨💼 Spotlight:The Washington Postdetails how former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who resigned unexpectedly last year, has returned to D.C. — in an unofficial role — advising the Trump administration about measures to defeat coronavirus and prevent a rebound epidemic this fall.
💉 New Life: The Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey became the first U.S. hospital to inject a critically ill coronavirus patient with stem cells from placenta, an experimental therapy developed by an Israeli company. Separately, new data shows that patients are responding positively to an antiviral medicine, remdesivir, developed by Gilead Pharmaceuticals.
🤷♂️ Sorry But No: Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reports that Israel rejected a request to export ventilators to the U.K.
🚘 On the Road: Ford Motors has hired former IDF military intelligence chief Col. Gil Gur Arie to head its global data insight and analytics.
🏢 Balancing Act: Real estate firm Kushner Cos. is reportedly facing a “high-wire” act with a shaky financial situation at its Dumbo Heights property in Brooklyn.
📰 Bidding War: A rival, last-minute bid has emerged to purchase the ailing Jewish Chronicle.
🗒️Never Forget: Video diaries based on Anne Frank’s writings have become a hit among young viewers.
✌️Party Unity:Former President Barack Obama returned to the presidential politics scene this week by endorsing Joe Biden as Democrats work to unify ahead of a tough battle against President Donald Trump. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also endorsed Biden for president.
🎼 Now Playing: Kelly Clarkson has released a new single, “I Dare You,” featuring duets in five languages, including in Hebrew with Israeli singer Maya Buskila.
🎙️New Tune: Bob Dylan’s latest song, “I Contain Multitudes,” includes a lyric proclaiming “I’m just like Anne Frank/ and Indiana Jones/ And them British bad boys the Rolling Stones.”
🕯️Remembering: Jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz died at 92, WWE announcer Howard Finkel died at 69, New York Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner died at age 63, furniture icon Bernie Rubin died at age 82 and Holocaust survivor Margit Buchhalter Feldman died at age 90.
🎓 Notable & Quotable: Marty Peretz writes in The Wall Street Journal, “Five of the eight Ivy League universities are now led by self-identifying Jews: Harvard’s president is an observant Jew, sometimes Hillel, sometimes Chabad; Yale’s, a descendant of possibly the most learned rabbinical dynasty; Penn’s, the daughter of a German Orthodox Jew who escaped to America before the carnage; Brown’s, a Quaker convert to Judaism; Princeton’s, a former Catholic who learned as an adult of his German refugee mother’s Jewishness. The overtness, even the ubiquity, of these varied Jewish identities reflects a dramatic 75-year evolution in the status of Jews in American academia. And this shift intertwines with and reflects something broader still: a sea change in the texture of American academic life, a change that has brought with it new challenges to the academy’s current relevance.”
Pic of the Day
Israelis celebrate the traditional end-of-Passover Mimouna festival amid mandatory self-isolation in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.
Winner of two Super Bowl rings during his career with the San Francisco 49ers (1984–1988), he is now a physician and an inductee in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Dr. John E. Frank turns 58 today…
FRIDAY: Cynthia J. Kugler turns 84… Retired Los Angeles cardiologist and active Yiddish enthusiast, Martin Bobrowsky, MD turns 80… NYU professor and noted legal scholar, Richard Allen Epstein turns 77… Marketing manager at Allied Interpreting Service in Los Angeles, Barry Schreiber turns 77… Official historian for Major League Baseball since 2011, John Thorn turns 73… Talk radio host on NYC’s sports radio station WFAN, his nickname is “The Schmoozer,” Steve Somers turns 73… CEO and EVP of B’nai B’rith International, Daniel S. Mariaschin turns 71… Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler turns 69…
French billionaire, based in Geneva, he and his brother own the House of Chanel perfume company as well holdings in vineyards and a thoroughbred horse racing stable, Gérard Wertheimer turns 69… Actress, screenwriter and film director, Daphna Kastner turns 59… Director of Rutgers University Press, Micah Kleit turns 50… Professor of politics and Russian studies at New York University and co-author of “The Monkey Cage” at The Washington Post, Joshua A. Tucker turns 49… Congressional editor for The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis turns 45… State senator in Alaska, Jesse Kiehl turns 44…
Executive director at Morgan Stanley, Nadya Belenkiy turns 41… Reporter for Bloomberg covering technology in Asia, Shelly Banjo turns 36… Southern California-based regional director at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy, Miri Katz Belsky turns 36… Communications manager at the Center for Responsible Lending, Matt Kravitz turns 35… Managing director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, Alex Kellner turns 34… Founder and principal of DKL Strategies, Dean Lieberman turns 31… Member of the Baltimore City Council, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer turns 31… Third year student at the Saint Louis University School of Law, Brian T. Earll turns 28… Press Secretary for Senator Chuck Schumer, Angelo Roefaro…
SATURDAY: Former chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl turns 85… Partner in the intellectual property law firm of Furgang & Adwar, Philip Furgang turns 83… Winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1985, Joseph Leonard Goldstein turns 80… Managing director of fundraising consultants Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, Michael Jaffe turns 80… Saul Bernstein turns 75… President of DeForest Concepts in Burlington, Vermont, she was previously a member of the Vermont State Senate and co-founder of Jogbra, Hinda Miller turns 70… Former mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Phil Gordon turns 69… Composer, pianist and musicologist, Robert M. Greenberg turns 66… Dallas attorney and former Planning Commissioner, Sally Brenner Wolfish turns 65… College basketball coach, now an ESPN analyst, Seth Greenberg turns 64… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Susan Faludi turns 61…
Community leader in Detroit and past president of AIPAC, David Victor turns 61… Editor of Commentary magazine and columnist for the New York Post, John Mordecai Podhoretz turns 59… President and rosh yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone institutions in Israel, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth R. Brander turns 58… VP and Deputy General Counsel at Scholastic Inc, Mark Seidenfeld turns 57… Executive director of the American Zionist Movement, Herbert Block turns 55… Emmy Award-winning actress, Tamara Braun turns 49… Film director and actor, Eli Roth turns 48… Founder and executive director of the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center, Rabbi Mendel Mintz turns 45… Partner in the white collar and cybersecurity practices of Paul Hastings, Robert P. Silvers turns 40… Political director for AIPAC’s Florida region, Evan Philipson turns 31… Dov Maimon…
SUNDAY: U.S. diplomat, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Peter Tarnoff turns 83… Literary theorist and legal scholar, Stanley Fish turns 82… Israeli criminal defense attorney who also served as the attorney general of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein turns 76… Global head of strategic human resources at Elliott Management Corporation and chair of the board of Start-Up Nation Central, Terry Kassel turns 70… Comedian, actress and mental health campaigner in the UK, Ruby Wax turns 67…
VP of GEM Commercial Flooring Company in Kansas, Gloria Elyachar turns 60… Angel investment fund manager, who during his 12-year NFL career (1987-1998) won three Super Bowls, Harris Barton turns 56… Law professor at Arizona State University and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Orde Félix Kittrie turns 56… Jerusalem-born historian and senior lecturer at the Hebrew University, Gadi Taub turns 55… Israeli entrepreneur best known as the former CEO of Better Place, Shai Agassi turns 52… French stand-up comedian and actor, Gad Elmaleh turns 49…
Award-winning actor, his official bar mitzvah was in 2015 at age 37, James Franco turns 42… Tel Aviv-born, now living in Toronto, CEO and co-founder of Klick Health (a digital marketing firm in the medical field), Leerom Segal turns 41… Actress and fashion entrepreneur, she starred in such films as “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Almost Famous,” Kate Hudson turns 41… Managing Director of development at NYC’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Brian Tregerman turns 33… Global director of young leadership for AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, Seffi Kogen turns 29… Arthur Cohn… Alum of Yeshiva Gedola of Passaic and current student at Columbia University, Jake Gerber…